A reflective report on our recent Diocese of Christchurch Synod, 2-3 September, 2011
In 2010 the September session of the Synod of the Diocese of Christchurch began with a service in Christ Church cathedral on Friday evening 3rd September. At 4.35 am the following morning the synod was effectively postponed by the 7.1 earthquake that shattered all illusions that Christchurch was a safe city in these shaky isles. Although the synod reconvened later that year, most of its time was taken up with post-quake issues and questions. Subsequently the quake on 22 February led to the postponement of a planned synod session in March to discuss the Anglican Covenant. Thus the session of synod just held was both an opportunity to further discuss post-quake (i.e. post-quakes plural) developments and to engage in some normative synodical discussions (apart from the Anglican Covenant which will be discussed in March, 2012).
The Diocese of Christchurch has been shaken by the events of the last year. Some felt that this synod we might have had some stirring going on - in many cases of damaged property, the process of restoration has been very slow, due to seemingly unending conversations between insurers, engineers, assessors, and parish and diocesan officers - the expression of stirred up frustrations would have been natural in the setting of synod. In fact, however, the session on post-quake responses was conducted in a good and gentle spirit. Key pieces of the process of restoration which were revealed were announcements that the diocese is engaging the architectural firm Warren and Mahoney to assist with design of new and rebuilt buildings and that there will be a Diocesan Strategic Working Group, chaired by Bishop Victoria Matthews, to work on the big picture of the post-quake future of the diocese.
Interspersed with the usual business of synods - accounts, reports, budget, and attempting to improve existing statutes, matters of interest ranged from Fiji to a General Synod commission, and from liturgical to housing concerns.
On Fiji we voted to recommend that General Synod not be held in Fiji in 2012 unless Commodore Bainimarama puts in writing that there will be no interference in the business of GS. In another resolution we noted the establishment of a General Synod commission of eminent persons to make recommendations to GS concerning same sex partnerships and the ordination of ministers in same sex partnerships and committed ourselves to praying for and engaging with the commission.
Concerned that we did not know precisely what status we were voting for 'Ashes to Fire' liturgical resources to have, we voted against confirming a GS statute authorising these services for use: our uncertainty concerned whether the specifics of the statute mean that these would become the only resources we might use during Lent, Holy Week and Easter. In another motion we also voted for requesting General Synod review existing canons concerning liturgies, believing that currently our church provides a confusing array of possibilities for different statuses of liturgical material.
Finally of note, we agreed with the Rev Mike Coleman, a resident in the Avonside 'red zone' that we want the government to review the deal it has offered Christchurch property owners in the red zones with a view to encouraging the government to challenge insurance companies to honour full replacement policies, allowing people an RV review, encouraging CERA to find affordable housing for people and to be open and transparent with the handling of Red Zone issues.